Generally Speaking

Contrary to popular opinion, Musharraf could be back sooner than expected

POINT OF VIEW

RIYAZ AHMAD

For all his spirited efforts to arrive at an acceptable Kashmir solution with India, former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf’s return to Pakistan and his subsequent arrest has attracted little notice in Kashmir. And this is despite the fact that the General rather than his successor can count on  firm pockets of support in the state – not only among the people but also among the wider political class. 
His outreach to mainstream political parties across the state’s ideological spectrum won him admirers among the top political leadership of the state which included the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. The main opposition PDP even bought into his radical four point proposals for the settlement of Kashmir which envisaged a solution without any re-adjustment of the state's geography. Here he superseded Pakistan’s former rulers like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and General Zia-ul-Haq who have during their rule enjoyed a substantial mass support in Valley. 
At the same time, Musharraf did alienate a large separatist constituency which viewed with alarm his incremental flexibility on Kashmir. Hurriyat G chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani determinedly opposed his “out-of-box” Kashmir formula following which the General turned his back on him and extended his support to the Hurriyat faction headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. 
Musharraf’s achievement was in creating and consolidating a new discourse on Kashmir which radically differed with the past. He forged a way for a solution where none existed, getting things to move, engineering history rather than be subservient to it. In this, the General pitted himself against the vexed historical baggage on Kashmir.But at the end of it all, history won. Musharraf exited from the scene with Kashmir continuing unresolved. 
In a sense, Kashmir of today owes itself in large measure to Musharraf’s extended Kashmir engagement with New Delhi through 2003-2007 during which the two countries came tantalizingly close to a solution. It was he who reigned in the then raging militancy in Kashmir which led to a resurgence in mainstream politics and the consequent normalcy in Kashmir. Ironically, New Delhi always blaming Musharraf for Kargil never gave him credit for contributing to peace in the state. 
His sudden exit from the scene in 2008 relegated Kashmir to the margins of the subsequent Indo-Pak engagement. Though Pakistan returned to its traditional position on Kashmir, harping again on the United Nations resolutions perked up a section of separatist opinion in the state, Kashmir lost its centrality in Indo-Pak talks. The PPP Government took a more or less economic approach to talks with India, choosing to pursue trade and travel rather than discuss Kashmir on old terms. 
However, even after his exit from the scene and subsequent exile in London, General didn’t sink into oblivion. His decision to plunge into democratic politics in 2010 brought him firmly back on the scene. It was a typical Musharraf fight back. Just when we thought the General was settling into post-retirement life, and the heady drama surrounding his tumultuous nine year rule was exhausted of its news potential, he steered his way  back into our midst, alive and kicking with the same irrepressible energy and the readiness to talk. And the former president has been talking ever since, generating heat and dust along the way. 
That is until his decision to return to Pakistan to fight elections and his subsequent arrest and parade in courts as an accused in criminal cases.  He is now being held in his farm house on the outskirts of Islamabad which has been converted into a sub-jail. Does it mean end of Musharraf? Almost all the media opinion has written him off. His decision to return to Pakistan has been invariably described as a gross error of judgement and an act of deluded man. But Musharraf could still bounce back. He returned to Pakistan despite the grave threat to his life and the political and legal challenges awaiting him. His fate will depend on who comes to power in Pakistan in this election. A PML(N) with Nawaz Sharif at the helm is likely to increase his troubles. But much will also depend on how army will respond to its former chief’s trial and whether it will watch passively as Musharraf is hounded through courts. And as Pakistan’s track record confirms, this is unlikely to happen.  And as Musharraf has himself envisaged, he could very well be on bail in the next few months or even weeks and walking the political landscape of Pakistan with the same irrepressible energy and readiness to talk.

Lastupdate on : Tue, 30 Apr 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 30 Apr 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 1 May 2013 00:00:00 IST




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